Dukas: Symphony in C; La péri; L’apprenti sorcier

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WORKS: Symphony in C; La péri; L’apprenti sorcier
PERFORMER: French National Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68802 2
Paul Dukas’s Symphony in C (1895), powerfully argued in strongly diatonic terms yet steeped in the Franco-Gothic mystical grandeur of Chausson, Franck and d’Indy, enjoys less popularity today than its formative precursors. Surprisingly, perhaps, the work is well represented on disc. My shelves yielded options by Yan Pascal Tortelier and the BBC Philharmonic on Chandos (coupled with the overture Polyeucte) and, from Denon, a programme matching this newcomer from Slatkin and the French National Orchestra to the last detail, played by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic under Jean Fournet.


But all three accounts of this undervalued work lack the flair and ecstatic intensity of Michel Plasson’s analogue EMI version with the Toulouse Capitole Orchestra, though Slatkin’s intelligent leadership draws characterful response from his Parisian forces. Fournet’s Dutch team delivers a more seductively choreographed reading of La péri (Dukas’s last major work and, like Ravel’s Daphnis, a Diaghilev commission), but Slatkin brings Goethe’s inept apprentice fully to life during his hair-raising performance of Dukas’s tone poem, leaving one more forcibly struck than usual by its modernity. Fournet and Tortelier are particularly effective in the Symphony, however, and besides, Slatkin’s RCA disc sounds shrill and top-heavy beside the sophisticated engineering of the Chandos and Denon releases. Michael Jameson